If you’re dealing with acne dark spots, you know how unsightly they can be. Learn how to treat your existing spots and help prevent new ones from forming.

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How To Treat And Prevent Dark Spots Caused By Acne

11/30/20228 min read

You wake up, look in the mirror, and see another crop of angry blotches on your face. Acne is the worst. Not only does it make you self-conscious, but the acne dark spots it leaves behind are even more challenging to get rid of than the pimples themselves.

Before you resign yourself to a life of spotty skin, know that there are things you can do to help treat your existing dark spots and prevent new ones from forming. In this article, we’ll take a look at those treatments and preventions.

Table Of Contents

What Causes Acne Dark Spots?

A woman with acne dark spots on her face

Before you can get rid of your dark spots, it’s important to understand why you have them in the first place. Dark spots are the result of inflammation or trauma to your skin.

Acne is the perfect storm for dark spots since it's linked to inflammation. Plus, anytime you pop or pick at a pimple, it can cause skin damage. Both the inflammation and the damage can lead to potential dark spots that linger for weeks or even months after the acne has healed.

However, acne isn’t the only potential cause of dark spots. Other skin conditions, such as eczema, can result in darker areas. In addition, sun damage can also cause dark spots, or “age” spots, which are especially common among those over 40.


Acne dark spots typically appear as a brown or gray discoloration on your skin. They vary in size, ranging from tiny to pretty large. You might have just one or two spots, or they could cover a larger area of your face or body.

However, these acne spots aren't raised or bumpy, so you won't feel any texture if you rub your finger over them. You also shouldn't feel any pain or irritation from them.

Where Dark Spots Can Occur

Depending on where you have acne, dark spots can appear anywhere on the face or body. However, you’ll typically find them in areas where your pores are large or prone to breakouts.

Your forehead, cheeks, nose, and chin are all common locations. But you can also find spots on your chest and back, especially if you suffer from body or back acne.

Treatment For Acne Dark Spots

Dermatologist examining dark spots on a patient’s back

Your dark spots might heal on their own over time. However, there’s always a chance that they won’t.

If you’re eager to eliminate your acne dark spots, a few treatments can help reduce their appearance. Let’s look at what you can do to minimize these spots.

Get A Doctor’s Recommendation

Some of the chemicals used in acne spot treatments are toxic, so it's a good idea to check with your doctor before trying any treatment.

Sometimes, the benefits you'll see don't outweigh the risks associated with the ingredients. This is especially true with skin-lightening products that can contain mercury and steroids.

So before purchasing random over-the-counter treatments, speak to a doctor about what options might be best for you.

Keep Your Skin Moisturized

Dry skin can exacerbate existing acne and make it more difficult for your dark spots to heal. That’s why moisturizing your skin is often the first step when trying to fade dark spots.

Look for creams or lotions that contain hyaluronic acid in the ingredients list. This active ingredient helps retain moisture on your skin and is gentle enough for sensitive skin as well.

Apply A Retinoid

A retinoid treatment is a vitamin A derivative. Products containing this ingredient work to exfoliate the skin and unclog pores. They also moisturize to help fight the appearance of dark spots.

But you’ll want to be careful with these treatments since too much of a retinoid can cause dryness and irritation. Higher concentrations are also associated with itchy skin, blistering, and further discoloration.

To help prevent these side effects, always read the package insert carefully and use the product as directed.

Use A Niacinamide Cream

Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3. Formulas with niacinamide have been found to help reduce visible dark spots. Regular application may help even out your skin tone over time.

Look for creams or lotions that contain niacinamide. Since you'll apply it daily, be sure to read the rest of the ingredients, too.

Try A Chemical Peel

Woman getting a chemical peel from a dermatologist

During a chemical peel, a dermatologist applies a chemical solution to your skin that helps exfoliate and reduce hyperpigmentation.

Since different types of peels treat varying layers of skin, your dermatologist can help you determine which type of peel is right for you. Some of the most common chemicals used are:

Immediately following a chemical peel, you might notice your spots darken. But after about a week, as your skin heals, the spots usually fade.

Get Laser Treatment

Dermatologists use laser treatments to target hyperpigmentation and dark spots specifically. It's a minimally invasive procedure in which concentrated beams of light are directed at your skin, allowing the melanin that gives your skin its color to break up and fade away.

The great thing about laser treatment is that it can also help get rid of scars, so it could be a good choice if you’ve suffered from severe acne.

However, laser treatments can be quite expensive if your insurance doesn't cover the procedure. This is especially true if you'll need multiple treatments to achieve the desired results.

Preventing New Dark Spots From Acne

Now that you know how to treat your existing dark spots, let's talk about the best ways to prevent new ones from forming.

Implement Good Sun Practices

Woman wearing a hat applying sunscreen to her face

Sun exposure can worsen existing dark spots as well as cause new ones to form. To prevent this, be sure to wear sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher every day. Keep tabs on the clock and reapply it regularly throughout the day, especially if you’re spending a lot of time outside.

Also, keep your skin covered when possible by wearing large-brimmed hats and long sleeves, if appropriate. This way, the sun’s rays can’t penetrate your skin and cause more damage.

Use Mild Cleansers

When dealing with acne, it can be tempting to scrub your face multiple times a day to clear your skin. But this can cause more harm than good.

Instead, cleanse twice a day at the most — morning and night — and opt for mild, moisturizing cleansers that won’t strip your skin of its natural oils and cause further irritation.

No matter what cleanser you choose, be gentle. Use your fingers to create a lather and lightly press it onto your skin using circular motions. Then, rinse with lukewarm water and pat your face dry, don’t rub.

Avoid Picking

It can be hard not to pick at acne, especially if it’s painful. But when you do, you run the risk of pushing bacteria deeper into your skin, which can damage your pores and cause more dark spots to pop up.

That's why you should keep your hands away from your face.

If you're feeling tempted by a particular pimple, wrap an ice cube in a soft cloth and hold it against your skin for a few minutes to reduce the inflammation and help minimize your desire to pop it.

Treat Your Acne

Future breakouts can lead to even more dark spots. So treating your spots without addressing the underlying problem doesn't make much sense.

Treatment will depend on the type of acne you're struggling with. For example, if you have mild, occasional breakouts, you can likely manage them with over-the-counter products or gentle cleansers.

But severe cases of acne require more intense treatments, like prescription medications or topical treatments.

Have Patience

As we mentioned, treating acne dark spots takes time. You might not see any results right away. Don't let this discourage you.

Instead, keep up with your treatment and continue taking good care of your skin as you prevent future breakouts. You'll be thankful that you persevered when your skin is smooth and blemish-free.

Say Goodbye To Acne Dark Spots

A woman examining dark acne spots on her face

Acne dark spots can be an annoying side effect of acne, but you don't have to suffer in silence. The above treatments can reduce their appearance or even help you eliminate them entirely.

And with the right skincare regimen, you can also help prevent new spots from forming. So opt for gentle cleaners, avoid picking at your bumps, and treat your skin with the care it deserves.

With a bit of patience and dedication, you’ll soon be enjoying beautiful skin and the confidence boost that goes with it.


American Academy of Dermatology Association
Minnesota Department of Health
National Library of Medicine
The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

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